Owlish Contemplations

The Case of the Surprised Leader

I took the Myers-Briggs personality test a few weeks ago, and I marveled in surprise at the results. Marveled in the way of one to whom it’s revealed what is so clear to everyone but her. Marveled because of how it all makes sense, but at the same time doesn’t always jive with introverted feelings.

My results? ENTJ. Extrovert. Intuitive. Thinking. Judging. One who takes leadership naturally, the description read. Which, if I am the leader of a national organization who trains teens to be leaders, is a good sign! But to be quite honest, it’s taken me awhile to truly embrace this personality that God has given to me. Middle school and high school perceptions of yourself can be pretty strong and can linger on into adulthood, making you sometimes think you’re still that way even when you’re not.

Sometimes I still feel like that shy, awkward thirteen-year old who didn’t quite fit in – who cared more about her fanciful, imaginative worlds than dating [I did flirt shamelessly with the boys, but in reality they scared me to death!] … who liked quirky things like cross-stitch [who knew that would be the “in” thing now??] and making her own dresses instead of a mall-style fashion sense. That girl who kind of faded into the back row of big youth groups at churches just moved to – that girl can sometimes still rise up within me and be terrified of what people think.

I remember being the quiet one because I was trying so hard to take it all in and figure out how to belong without making a fool of myself. I remember getting to school an hour early and walking the halls alone or sitting in an empty classroom writing in a notebook, trying so hard not to appear like the loser I knew I must look like. I never really wanted to be “popular” – I just wanted a place to belong and a place to truly be myself – but I got stuck being the scared watcher, fading into the background of people’s busy worlds.

What I must remember, though, is that that girl isn’t truly me – not who God created me to be. If I look at my carefree childhood, I see many signs of being a leader – although not great signs, I warrant! I still can’t believe I hijacked Natasha’s and Kelsey’s child “detective agency” and made myself “Boss 1” … or that one morning before Sunday School, I so saucily sat on the “boys’ side” thereby making all the girls join me and making the boys sit on the “girls’ side” of the church basement (because heaven forbid we would actually co-mingle!). If ever there was an independent thinker, it was this girl who decided that bonnets and Puritan costumes could be the “in” thing, and that really the cure for the doll’s too-long eyelashes was to cut them.

I agree with C.S. Lewis that we are most truly ourselves in childhood and adulthood – but the in-between stage we often get confused and get convinced that we’re someone else. As a child, I was so happy to be unequivocally imaginative me. By the time I got to that terrible age of 13, though, the voices of culture and my own insecurities whispered to me that that was “weird” and I’d better do my best to stifle it. Thank goodness God brought theater into my life in high school, because I suddenly discovered there were other “weirdos” out there like me – and they were called creative, artistic actors – people who feel the world deeply and can’t help but express it in a somewhat dramatic way.

Maybe that’s why my heart goes out to middle schoolers & high schoolers – because I feel the pain of their insecurities as if they were my own again, and I want so badly to remind them of who they truly are. I see who they are beneath their facades they wear to try and fit in, and I want to cry out – “It’s okay! Just be okay with embracing who you are – because you are most beautiful when you light up with what you love most.”

I know, dear ones. I know even now at my own age – sometimes it’s hard to have an “old soul” in a cookie-cutter world of hashtags and boy bands. But I’ve finally become comfortable with loving what I do, and I’ve actually discovered that when I freely express my fondness for such things as words, fedoras, chalkboards, lace, and pearls – I find others who are exactly the same.

In the end, as I examine my personality, I must concur with the wise Myers & Briggs – I can’t be anything but the leader God made me to be – warts and all. I’m still not convinced I’m a total extrovert, because at the end of the day, I would rather be alone than with people. But I’m willing to bet I’m half and half. And to think there could be something called a thinking dreamer! A logical fancier! It makes total sense to this one who overthinks everything and looks for logic & reason in all things … all things but fairies and optimistically happy endings. I always knew in my head that the fairies weren’t actually real – but that didn’t stop me from whispering to them as I danced down the sidewalk outside our apartment as a child.

The quest for “identity” is over. It doesn’t come from four letters at the end of a personality test, but rather it comes from the security of knowing who I am in Christ. I am a sinner. I am redeemed. I am being molded in His hands every day. And He has said, “This one I’d like to be a leader. But let’s give her just enough fear to keep her humble … just enough uncertainty to keep her eyes on Me … and just enough timidity to remind her that all strength comes from above.”

I might be the talkative, go-getter, let’s-plan-something-now, make-a-detailed-list kind of a person now, but I will never forget what it was like to be the insecure teenager. And because of that, I am compelled to always reach out to them. You never know which one has the leader hiding inside, just waiting to be drawn out and encouraged to explode with influence.

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